Madis Kallas: Choices made today determine if Estonia becomes city-state

"Vision Conference – Local Government 2035." Source: The Ministry of Regional Affairs and Agriculture

The Ministry of Regional Affairs and Agriculture set up a conference "Vision Conference – Local Government 2035" to discuss with Finnish colleagues innovative regional solutions and cross-border collaboration strategies.

"We have to make sure that we have well-mapped out information, laid out our primary objectives and are looking for more concrete solutions – whether it is more personalized services or delegating tasks to local authorities – while taking into account the regional peculiarities, of which there are many in Estonia, despite its small size," Minister of Regional Affairs Madis Kallas (SDE) said.

"It is clear that Estonia has a high level of regional inequality, as also evidenced by European Commission's calculations. I and everyone else can guarantee that, from an economic point of view, we are in a situation where failure to take immediate action to modify our tax system, including the way in which local taxes are imposed, the financing coefficients of local governments and other aspects, will result in Estonia resembling something like a city-state by 2035. It would be of no use to anyone; it's not good for our capital or for the regions further away," the minister said.

Cross-border cooperation is key

Finnish Minister of Local and Regional Government Anna-Kaisa Ikonen stressed the importance of international cooperation, particularly between Finland and Estonia.

Finnish Minister of Local and Regional Government Anna-Kaisa Ikonen. Source: The Ministry of Regional Affairs and Agriculture

"For many years, Finland and Estonia have collaborated in the field of digitization. Since 2005, our countries have begun exchanging population data. Our collaboration has solid foundations, but there is still much more we can accomplish," Ikonen said.

"Estonia's administrative methods show its cleverness and innovation. A merger of municipal governments in Järva County reorganized local services in a unique way. Järva eliminated permanent service places instead of debating which ones to close. Instead, services will be brought to where they're required. It's a new way of thinking, offering a fresh perspective," she said.

Digital transformation starts with mindset

Speaking about the process of digital transformation of local governments, Professor Ulrika H. Westergren from the Department of Informatics at Umeå University in Sweden stressed the critical importance of developing a data-driven mindset. Westergren pointed out that simply increasing the amount of data does not necessarily automatically lead to changes in the behavioral patterns of people or organizations.

"Vision Conference – Local Government 2035." Source: The Ministry of Regional Affairs and Agriculture

Early engagement and adaptation of the tax system

The panel explored how early community involvement in municipal activities and services and key infrastructure and community business projects benefits all stakeholders and reduces future conflicts. With Estonia's small size, people are increasingly more mobile and many want to be involved in the rural municipality, the panel observed.

The conference on Tuesday, November 7, "Vision Conference - Local Government 2035" was organized by the Ministry of Regional Affairs and Agriculture.


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Editor: Kristina Kersa

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